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Fierce Imaginings: The Great War, Ritual, Memory and God Paperback – 23 Feb 2017
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'Exceptional... This is the most searching and original book I have read about the impact of the First World War on the faith and the myths of this country.' --Rowan Williams
'Don't be fooled. This is not just another book on the tragedy of the First World War. It is an intelligent, personal and provocative study of human identity and the symbols and rituals with which we seek to explore it. Elaine Scarry reminded us that 'the main purpose and outcome of war is injuring'. With an honest and reflective freshness, Rachel Mann surveys the extent of the injury and how imagination can open up spaces we grow into if we are to survive it.' --Mark Oakley, Author and Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral
'This is an astonishing book a profound and searching multi-disciplinary examination of the First World War and its cultural history, a meditation on faith and identity. Absolutely timely, moving and insightful, lyrical and elegiac, this is a book I'll return to again and again.' --Michael Symmons Roberts, Poet and Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University
About the Author
Revd Rachel Mann is an Anglican priest, poet and broadcaster. The author of two books, her memoir of growing up trans,'Dazzling Darkness' was a Church Times bestseller. She is minor canon and resident poet at Manchester Cathedral and is a regular contributor to Radio 2's Pause For Thought.
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For someone like me who is an "adopted Briton," this book has given me a deeper insight into elements of WW1 deeply ingrained into the psyche of the British society that are not usually spoken about yet the are latent in most people's minds. In many ways it has been an eye opener into some aspects of the culture I live in and I love. There are a lot of interesting historical facts unknown to me, but most importantly, a lot of underlying cultural constructs that I wasn't aware before. It is critical yet honest and respectful.
If you are interested in the history of modern culture or linguistics, this book has throughout an interesting implicit insight into semiotics that will also give you something to think.
This book takes you on journey from the intact fields and farms of Worcestershire to those blasted ones of Somme, and back to the present day. On this journey Rachel reflects on the history, sociology and theology of the Great War, at the fracture lines that opened and were opening within psychological medicine, between Church and State, and amongst social classes. Speaking as someone who has been to the Battlefields and who had a WW1 great-grandad, I found resonances with her excellent writing and my own thoughts and experiences. You will find yourself nodding in agreement at her insights, and having to put the book down from time to time to allow these to digest; much like eating a box of dark chocolates!
This is well worth reading: it only has nine chapters, and you have just enough time to get a chapter a week done before Remembrance Sunday in November. In this way perhaps the silence might have another shade of nuance, of link with the past, of a capturing of some of the mythology surrounding this event, and thus increase the meaning and impact on yourself.
Rachel, priest and a poet, with a prose style rich in the poetic genre, reflects on how to avoid the stereotypes and lift the experience out of repetitive tradition, possibly among other things by exploring Silence and how to make it 'more than just remembering'. With the poet's capacity to bring together things normally kept apart, always positive and helpful but often uncomfortable, Rachel succeeds in offering facts without explanations, a style highly emotive but without emotion, rooted in history but essentially contemporary, intensely personal and at the same time universal.Rich in ideas and phrases which make you stop and think, and sometimes even begin to feel different. Ideal first call for anyone regularly involved in such events, preachers especially, because it would be difficult not to find something fresh or a new angle on the familiar without doing despite to the tradition but rather enriching it.